Post Prayer Meeting Speech by Mahatma Gandhi
Previous Speech: 1948-01-23
Next Speech: 1948-01-25
Location: Birla Bhavan, New Delhi
Annotation from Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi
CWMG, Volume 90, No. 450, Page 490
BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
I requested you to maintain silence during the prayer meeting. For some time you were quiet, but later when the prayer was going on some women carried on a conversation and children were screaming. I have repeatedly said that when children cry they should be taken out of the meeting. Good manners demand that women should not keep their crying children in the meeting.
Today I will deal with a lengthy telegram, which I had no time to take up yesterday. It says that the agreement that had been signed between the two Governments for expatriation of the prisoners and abducted girls was a good one but that it only lasted for a short while and has now been broken. The reason for this seems to have been the condition laid down by the West Punjab Government that it would implement the agreement only after all the States in East Punjab had undertaken to return all the Muslim girls held anywhere under their jurisdiction.
I can see no difficulty in this if the same should apply to the States in West Punjab even if there are fewer States there than in East Punjab. It is true that difficulties crop up in implementing such an agreement. When the agreement was signed no difficulties were raised. What does it matter? All the girls whether on this side or that side should be restored. It does not seem to me to be right that if ten girls are returned by the West Punjab Government East Punjab should also return only that number and no more. All the girls held in East Punjab, all the women and men who are prisoners should be returned unconditionally. But today this does not happen because there is ill feeling. What does it matter that there are more girls held in West Punjab than in East Punjab? I say that we should not think on these lines. It is all a mistake. To carry away one person is as much a mistake as to carry away a hundred. If more were not carried away it is only because the ruffians were not able to—not because they did not intend to—carry away so many girls or imprison so many men. A process that has been once set in motion should not be hampered. In fact the agreement should have been extended to cover other things too. If the two Governments meet in a spirit of amity and fully resolve that they will not go to war, the way will become clear. I shall therefore humbly ask the two Governments to forget what has happened and to correct themselves. We must cleanse our hearts. But even if our hearts have not been cleansed we can still do what is clearly our duty. Self-purification means that we purge our hearts.
I have been receiving complaints that not all the girls abducted are returned from West Punjab. I have the same complaint concerning girls held in East Punjab. I have not conducted any investigation and cannot say who is lying and who is telling the truth. But if the complaint is true with regard to West Punjab it is a matter of shame. The same holds good for East Punjab. But there is yet another complaint against West Punjab. It is said they say one thing and do the opposite of it. All I can say is that this should be put right or else the purpose for which I fasted has been fulfilled in letter but not in spirit.¹
Courtesy: All India Radio. Also Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 335-7
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Audio courtesy of Gandhi Heritage Portal from All India Radio
Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG) from The Publications Division of Government of India with kind permission of Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad